It's a Wonderful Time to Be in the B-to-B News Business

Oil & Gas Editor Bob Tippee Makes a Case for Trade Publications' Quality Advantage on the Web

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Bob Tippee
Bob Tippee
The following is excerpted from a speech given by Bob Tippee after he'd been presented the Crain Award at the Neal Awards ceremony.

Not long after I joined the staff of Oil & Gas Journal, I encountered a woman who worked at the newspaper I had just left.

"How does it feel to be out of the news business?" she asked. She thought that since I now worked for a trade magazine I had abandoned news.

I didn't feel then, and I don't feel now, that I ever left the news business. My colleagues and I do what all news people do: hustle facts, write stories, and try to create linear intelligence out of the splendid mayhem of human activity -- in our case a specific realm of human activity.

We do so within the same parameters of fairness, accuracy, and speed that apply to news reported for mass audiences. But we also apply the elevated standards of precision, authority and selectivity demanded by specialist professionals.

This is a wonderful time to be in the B-to-B news business.

I know what you're thinking: The poor old fool; he's commenced to babbling. Where's he been? Magazines and newspapers are folding, editors are losing their jobs, nobody's hiring. Print advertising doesn't make the money it once did, and the web, in most cases, hasn't compensated.

I'll grant that the landscape has changed. The web has turned information into a commodity.

We now compete in and contribute to a dimensionless yet expanding mass of information nobody wants to pay for.

And let's face facts: a lot of that information is duplicative, unfocused, and superficial. Why should anybody pay for it?

As the geophysicists who make up part of Oil & Gas Journal's audience would describe the modern torrent of information, the signal-to-noise ratio is too low.

Part of the problem is that too much of what websites present as news just aggravates clutter with which readers are long past weary.

Too many news operations are assembly lines of barely edited and wholly undeveloped press releases.

So while demand for professionally useful information rises, the average quality of a burgeoning supply of information falls.

In this paradox I see a glittering opportunity for enterprises that know how:

  • to report stories before the press releases appear ... and stories about which no press releases will appear
  • to anticipate the questions professional readers ask and uncover and report the answers
  • to provide the background and context that make stories whole
  • to omit gloss and unnecessary decoration
  • to be prompt and brief
  • to present real news, in other words
  • New electronic tools enable us to create value with timeliness. They push us toward news. But news has to mean more than flipping press releases and cherry-picking the Reuters file.

    A news operation has to do more than mass-produce content; it must create intelligence.

    Success lies ahead for the magazines, websites and editors that understand the difference between content and intelligence and who respond with talent and energy.

    News done the right way has to be a major part -- if not the major part -- of the future of business media.

    And I know, from having never left the news business, that it's remarkably good fun and getting more so all the time.

    Bob Tippee is the editor of Oil & Gas Journal.
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